The incident would mark the first time since the Cold War that Moscow has used live ammunition to deter a NATO warship.
The Russian military said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs Wednesday to force a British destroyer away from an area in the Black Sea near Crimea that Moscow claims as its territorial waters, but Britain denied that account and insisted its ship wasn’t fired upon.
It was the first time since the Cold War that Moscow acknowledged using live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, reflecting the growing risk of military incidents amid soaring tensions between Russia and the West.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Russian warship fired warning shots after the British destroyer HMS Defender had ignored a notice against intrusion and sailed 3 kilometers (1.6 nautical miles) into Russia’s territorial waters. It said a Russian Su-24 bomber also dropped four bombs ahead of the British ship’s path to persuade it to change course. Minutes later, the British warship left the Russian waters, the ministry said.
The Defense Ministry said it has summoned the U.K. military attache in Moscow to protest the British destroyer’s maneuver.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense denied the Defender had been fired on or was in Russian waters.
“No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender,” it said in a statement. “The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a move that was not recognized by most countries, gaining access to the peninsula’s long Black Sea coast. Russia has frequently chafed at NATO warships visits near Crimea, casting them as destabilizing. In April, it declared a broader sea area off Crimea closed to foreign naval ships.
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